A longtime New Jersey resident and a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, Weiner clerked for U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin in Newark before joining the players’ association. Once at the union, he became a key figure in the lengthy process to parse the $280 million collusion settlement among individual players.
Weiner also was a junior lawyer during the 71/2-month players’ strike in 1994-95 strike and the negotiations that finally led to a new labor agreement in March 1997.
“I think that helped some people on the owners’ side to finally accept that the union was a fixture and the union was an entity they were going to have to deal with,” he said. “There was never a chance for anything to settle in until we got through collusion, and really until then we got through the bargaining in ‘94 and ‘95.”
Following eight work stoppages in a 23-year span, baseball has since negotiated three straight labor deals without interruption.
Weiner headed talks for the last deal, in November 2011, which instituted a series of significant changes that included restraints on signing bonuses for amateur players and increased the number of free agents able to switch teams without requiring the loss of draft picks as compensation.
“It took a while for the owners to appreciate that the union is not only here to stay, but that the union and its members can contribute positively to a discussion about the game -- about its economics, about the nature of the competition, about how it’s marketed in every way,” he said.
In addition to the labor contract, he headed the legal team that in 2012 convinced an arbitrator to overturn a 50-game suspension imposed on Braun, the Milwaukee outfielder who was the previous year’s NL MVP. The union argued his urine sample had not been handled properly.
Last summer Braun agreed to accept a 65-game suspension for his activities relating to the Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic and his public statements.
Following a line of leaders that began with Marvin Miller and went on to include the short reign of Kenneth Moffett and the long tenure of Fehr, Weiner was exceedingly conscious of the union’s history and traditions of player involvement. He appeared with Fehr and the then 95-year-old Miller at a 2012 discussion at New York University’s School of Law marking the 40th anniversary of the first baseball strike and the rise of the union.
His hair nearly gone from his treatment, Weiner returned to NYU in January for a memorial celebrating the life of Miller, who died two months earlier. He humbly referred to “our little sport of baseball.”
“He was not just too young to die. He was too good and decent, too kind and brilliant,” said Gene Orza, the union’s former chief operating officer. “I never knew anyone finer.”
Said NFL players’ union executive director DeMaurice Smith: “The family of Michael Weiner and the community of athletes worldwide have lost a leader. I will miss my friend.”
Weiner is survived by his wife, Diane Margolin, and daughters Margie, Grace and Sally. Funeral arrangements were pending.